When actress Faye Grant met Stephen Collins on the set of his short-lived action series Tales of the Gold Monkey in 1982, she immediately fell for the dashing star.
“I thought, either he’s gay or a complete jerk, because he can’t be as fabulous as he looks and be available!” Grant told PEOPLE in 1999.
The feeling was mutual – Collins, who was previously married to writer Marjorie Weinman before the pair divorced in 1978 – was smitten with Grant, best known for starring in the alien invasion TV miniseries V.
After a romantic two-year courtship, the pair wed in 1985 in New York City. When she became pregnant, Grant said her husband was “incredibly attentive,” playing guitar for their unborn daughter Kate, now 25, every night.
The Michigan-bred actress gave up her career to become a stay-at-home mom, and the family settled into a two-house compound in the affluent L.A. neighborhood of Brentwood.
For 27 years, the couple appeared to be the rare example of a Hollywood marriage that worked, while Collins built a long – and highly paid – career playing squeaky-clean good guys. Between 1996 and 2007, he made millions playing upstanding minister Rev. Eric Camden, the father of seven children, on the WB series 7th Heaven, which became the network’s highest-rated show.
Family Man Image
The family man image wasn’t only onscreen. Collins began serving as a lay eucharistic minister at All Saints Church, an Episcopal congregation in Beverly Hills, and spoke openly of his religious faith. “It just happened one day out of the blue,” he told PEOPLE. “Just something inside me that said, go to church this weekend.”
The Amherst College graduate said his spiritual work influenced his acting on Heaven, and the show’s creator and executive producer, Brenda Hampton, saw him as a mentor to the show’s young actors, saying, “[He’s] not just the dad on the show, he’s the dad on the set.” One who even quizzed his teen costar Beverley Mitchell on whether her boyfriends had good intentions. And when costar Jessica Biel, then 17, appeared scantily clad on the cover of Gear magazine, Collins criticized it as “child pornography.”
Away from the cameras, he doted on his real-life family. “I guess life does imitate art!” the actor said.
There was but one public departure from the straightlaced persona. Collins, who published two novels, wrote a psychosexual thriller in 1998 called Double Exposure.
“I’m interested in sex,” he said. “I like to write about it.”
But in 2012, Collins filed for divorce from Grant. “She has been my dearest friend and a loving mother,” he said at the time. “I know that we’ll go through this process in a way that honors our family.”
Grant said she was blindsided. “Stephen’s filing for divorce is a surprise,” she said. “I wish him the very best in whatever path he chooses to take. Twenty-seven years of marriage in Hollywood is the equivalent of 189 dog years.”
Bitter Feud over Money
What no one disputes is that in the years since, the pair have been engaged in an increasingly bitter feud over money. Grant claims that Collins earned as much as $3 million a year during the marriage, and that she’s entitled to half of the fortune, which also includes the two multimillion-dollar Brentwood homes and millions in investments and retirement accounts, as community property.
In the midst of the dispute, the tape of Collins that purports to reveal him admitting to inappropriate conduct with three minors was leaked to TMZ. Grant admits to making the tape and handing it over to police. She also claims in court documents that he used a 12-step model for sex addiction and was seeing a “sexual dysfunction” therapist, but refused to seek “proper help or hospitalizations for his predilection towards children.”
Still, Grant says she had “no involvement whatsoever” in leaking the tape to the media. Collins’s lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, holds her responsible. “Faye has repeatedly threatened to give this audiotape to the media, unless Stephen agreed to pay her millions of dollars more than to which she was legally entitled,” said Kaplan. “It appears that she has finally found an audience for this tape. Not surprisingly on the eve of the trial in the divorce case.”
Jobs Now Lost
Just how much money the pair will have to fight over in the end is a question. Collins’s once-lucrative career as an actor is unlikely to recover. On Tuesday, Entertainment Weekly reported the producers of the movie Ted 2 fired Collins after the molestation allegations surfaced, and TV Guide Network and UpTV have yanked 7th Heaven from their schedules.
In any case, what seemingly started as a storybook relationship has taken a toxic turn few could have predicted. Back in 1999, the pair told PEOPLE that they were so close, that they were considering collaborating on a novel some day. Said Grant: “We work well together.”